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Essays in Early American Architectural History

A View from the Chesapeake
Carl R. Lounsbury
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The essays in this collection represent the type of research that has reshaped our understanding of early American architecture over the past thirty years. Carl R. Lounsbury, three-time winner of the prestigious Abbott Lowell Cummings Award offered by the Vernacular Architecture Forum, traces the manner in which domestic, ecclesiastical, and public architecture illuminate the dynamics and aspirations of early American society. Architectural forms carried social meanings and gave physical shape to the way people perceived their place in the world and interacted with others during the colonial and early national periods. Lounsbury examines the emergence of regional building traditions and cultural landscapes as they evolved in response to the environment, social and economic conditions, technological capabilities, craft skills, and labor organization. In wide-ranging essays and in more detailed case studies, Lounsbury looks at a number of recurring issues, including English precedents for particular building types, the elusive meaning of regionalism as an organizational principle, the influence of Protestant theology on church design, and the precariousness of interpreting architectural history based solely on standing structures.

While the Chesapeake is the principal focus of much of this book, Lounsbury also considers building practices in Savannah, Charleston and the low country, the Middle Atlantic colonies, and New England. Chronologically, the essays span the early seventeenth century—the period of first European settlement of the East Coast—through the early nineteenth century when emerging national patterns transformed the design and ornamentation of American churches and meetinghouses. The concluding essays move from architectural history to historic preservation and address the effects of twentieth-century design aesthetics on the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.